Fashioning Africa: Power and the Politics of Dress (2004)

By: Jean Allman ed.

Everywhere in the world there is a close connection between the clothes we wear and our political expression. To date, few scholars have explored what clothing means in 20th-century Africa and the diaspora. In Fashioning Africa, an international group of anthropologists, historians, and art historians bring rich and diverse perspectives to this fascinating topic. From clothing as an expression of freedom in early colonial Zanzibar to Somali women’s headcovering in inner-city Minneapolis, these essays explore the power of dress in African and pan-African settings. Nationalist and diasporic identities, as well as their histories and politics, are examined at the level of what is put on the body every day. Readers interested in fashion history, material and expressive cultures, understandings of nation-state styles, and expressions of a distinctive African modernity will be engaged by this interdisciplinary and broadly appealing volume.

Contributors are Heather Marie Akou, Jean Allman, Boatema Boateng, Judith Byfield, Laura Fair, Karen Tranberg Hansen, Margaret Jean Hay, Andrew M. Ivaska, Phyllis M. Martin, Marissa Moorman, Elisha P. Renne, and Victoria L. Rovine.

More Information


Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2004
ISBN: 9780253216892
OCLC Number: 54079857
Description: vi, 247 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.

Table of contents

Table of contents

Introduction: Fashioning Power: The Politics of Dress in Modern Africa (Jean Allman)

Part 1. Fashioning Unity: Women and Dress; Power and Citizenship

  • 1. Remaking Fashion in the Paris of the Indian Ocean: Dress, Performance, and the Cultural Construction of a Cosmopolitan Zanzibari Identity (Laura Fair)
  • 2. Dress and Politics in Post World War II Abeokuta (Western Nigeria) (Judith Byfield)
  • 3. Nationalism without a Nation: The Dress of Somali Women in Minneapolis-St. Paul (Heather Marie Akou)

Part 2. Dressing Modern: Gender, Generation, and Invented (National) Traditions

  • 4. The Importance of Clothing in Struggles over Identity in Colonial Western Kenya (Margaret Jean Hay)
  • 5. Putting on a Pano and Dancing Like Our Grandparents: Nation and Dress in Late Colonial Luanda (Marissa Moorman)
  • 6. “Anti-mini Militants Meet Modern Misses”: Urban Style, Gender, and the Politics of “National Culture” in 1960s Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (Andrew M. Ivaska)

Part 3. Disciplined Dress: Gendered Authority and the National Politics

  • 7. From Khaki to Agbada: Dress and Political Transition in Nigeria (Elisha P. Renne)
  • 8. “Let Your Fashion Be in Line with Our Ghanaian Costume”: Nation, Gender, and the Politics of Cloth-ing in Nkrumah’s Ghana (Jean Allman)
  • 9. Miniskirts, Gender Relations, and Sexuality in Zambia (Karen Tranberg Hansen)

Part 4. African “Traditions” and Global Markets: The Political Economy of Fashion and Identity

  • 10. Fashionable Traditions: The Globalization of an African Textile Victoria L. Rovine)
  • 11. African Textiles and the Politics of Diasporic Identity-Making (Boatema Boateng)
  • Afterword (Phyllis M. Martin)

List of Contributors


About the author

About the author

Jean Allman is Professor of African History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is co-editor (with Susan Geiger and Nakanyike Musisi) of Women in African Colonial Histories (IUP, 2002).

Book Reviews

Book Reviews

Hopkins, MaryCarol. “Review of Fashioning Africa: Power and the Politics of Dress.” Africa Today 52, no. 4 (2006): 130-135. doi:10.1353/at.2006.0047.

Student reviews